museum of obsolete technology
Show List of Exhibits


VIC-20 (1981)

Commodore-64 (c.1983)


Macintosh 128K (1984)

Macintosh 512Ke (1987)

Commodore VIC-20 (1981)

Gift of Glenn Dockery.

In 1981, the world of personal computing was still very new. The existing personal computers in the market were very expensive. The VIC-20 was introduced in 1980 for $299 (about $800 in today's money), which was a quarter of the price of an Apple II, half the price of a TRS-80, and less than half the cost of Commodore's own PET.

For that little money, you got a very basic computer - only 5K of RAM (expandable by adding a card to the expansion slot), of which only 3.5KB was actually available for use. The graphics were fairly low resolution, but there was still a considerable amount of software created for the machine.

If the typical VIC-20 user wished to save any software they wrote themselves, or load any programs that were not available on an expansion card (some cards were sold loaded with several game programs), they had to read and write data from an external cassette recorder. This worked fairly well, but would be agonizingly slow by today's standards.

The VIC-20 in our exhibit includes its power supply (which outputs 10VAC, leaving the conversion to DC voltage to the computer itself), and a VIC-20 user guide. It would have also originally had a cable to connect the computer to a monitor. Two of the keys are broken - the caps are loose, but the stems still push down. We have not yet tested to see if it still functions, so we will update this story in that event.

Our First Family Computer

This VIC-20 was likely bought new by my Dad in 1981. $299 would have been a lot of money at the time, but it was rock-bottom pricing for getting into the computer revolution. My only previous experience with a personal computer was with a Radio Shack TRS-80 that the Science Club in my high school had purchased.

Although we no longer have it, we originally had a Commodore-branded cassette drive for loading and saving data, and an expansion card that added a whopping 16K of RAM. The early 80s were a time of rapid change in computing, and in only a few years, my Dad would upgrade to a Commodore 64, because the VIC-20 was already feeling so slow and obsolete. I'm glad he didn't trash it - it's good to have a personal relic of those times, when computers had not yet taken over our everyday lives.

Steve Dockery, MOOT Director of Acquisitions